Baring your Talent Naked and Unashamed

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Painting by Jean-Jacques Henner

 

In the Beginning 

A couple of times a year I host a creative writing workshop. But this isn’t any average workshop. This workshop is at a nudist resort, during a time an event is hosted for Florida Young Naturists, also known as FYN. Naked in the subtropical climate of central Florida with other naked people, I am a writing instructor, baring my talent and letting them bare theirs.

To put it all into perspective, it’s necessary to give a quick background regarding FYN. The group was started in the late 2000s to provide naturist ages 18-30 – though they have since changed it to 18-35 – a safe venue to practice non-sexual nude recreation with like minded people, free of judgement and body shame. The group attracts all sorts of people. You name it, they are there. Nerds, jocks, hippies, liberals, conservatives, Christians, Wiccans and other pagans, Jews, Buddhists, atheists, artists, fire spinners and other performing artists, and of course writers. There are those in the group who host their own workshops consisting of yoga, figure drawing, photography, environmentalism, relationships, and so forth. I have attended many of these workshops and enjoyed them.

Creating a Community 

The first four years or so that I attended there was a never a writing workshop. Though, to be honest, I never questioned why. It wasn’t until about two years ago that I started thinking that a writing group could be conducive for a group of nudists. Young people are trying to find their place in the world and need a safe outlet full of a good group of nonjudgmental people to express themselves. FYN is the perfect place for this. I took my idea to Robbe White, the founder, and he readily agreed. Since then I have been leading a workshop for creative writing at Sunny Sands for the FYN events.

The workshop is simple enough. I tell everyone assembled that each of us are storytellers, that we were born storytellers and to just let it flow. I give very little prompts for them to go off of, except telling them that if they want to write a story incorporating nudist themes that they are free to go off of that. As a whole I just tell people that they can write whatever they would like to write about, but to do so in a way that keeps the good vibes of FYN so that it can remain a wholesome environment. What they write covers a large range, from comical to drama, from fantasy to science fiction, from poetry to real life experience. Along the way we politely critique and praise one another’s work, all the while offering encouragement.


Being Vulnerable

It’s not easy for many to share what they have written with others. To do so shows a vulnerability. Then again, it’s not easy for many to get naked with a group of potential strangers as well. Maybe that’s why both go well together. Initially there will be those who will show reluctance to share what they have written and with good reason. Writing comes from our hearts and souls. To share our writing with others is to spiritually and emotionally strip ourselves naked to the point that our blemishes can be seen. However, what’s truly amazing is just like FYN encourages young adults to try social nudity, it also encourages them to step out of their comfort zone in many other ways. Therefore, though there are those who start out nervous sharing their writing, many end up sharing their writing anyway. I never pressure anyone in my workshop to read what they have written. But almost everyone, on their own accord, end up volunteering to read what they wrote.

I think nudity gives people courage to be more true to themselves, to be more authentic, to be a bit more vulnerable. As writers we have to be vulnerable. Just like nudists or naturists learn not to worry about what people think of their bodies, we as writers have to learn not to be concerned over what others think of our writing. That’s not to say that we can’t take constructive criticism and feedback over our stories, poems, and novels, and whatnot. But just like our bodies, possessing both beauty and blemishes, are a part of who we are, and we should be proud of our bodies, our writing is also a part of who we are and we should likewise be proud of it with all it’s beauty and blemishes.

 

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To Sell Yourself or to Be True to Yourself?

“You need to write what sells,” a lady tells me. “I would rather write what’s in my heart,” I reply. “You’ll never be successful if you do that,” she adds. My blood boils. It was such a lovely conversation up until now. “Whether my book sells or not isn’t up for you to decide or me to decide, but for the readers” I say a bit more testily than I mean to. The conversation ends on an awkward note.

There are a lot of issues that get on my nerves, sometimes little ones. Telling authors what they should write and then threatening them that they won’t be successful if they don’t follow this formula is one such pet peeve of mine. It’s not that I don’t think the woman was right in some aspects, or many aspects for that matter. There certainly are bestsellers out there that the reading audience devours. But just because a book is beloved today, doesn’t mean that it is destined to go down in history as a classic. The reading public is fickle, with loyalties that can change as the years pass by.

I’m sure most of my readers are familiar with Herman Melville and his literary masterpiece Moby Dick. Melville has been lauded as the Shakespeare of America, a title well deserved. His work is very poetic, comical, tragic, and explores the human soul, much like William Shakespeare did with his plays. But though praised in literary circles and academia now, there was a time in which Melville was an obscure author. Moby Dick was a commercial flop when it was published in 1851. If Melville dreamed of fame, it would have to wait until after he died, in which his work would be discovered in the 20th century.

The opposite of Melville would be Edward Bulwer-Lytton. Don’t know who he is? You’re

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Frontispiece of Bulwere-Lytton’s “The Disowned.”

in good company. He has been largely forgotten. Yet you probably use his phrases more often than you think. Phrases such as “the pen is mightier than the sword,” and the “pursuit of the almighty dollar,” as well as the infamous “it was a dark and stormy night,” all come from him. While he is virtually unknown today, or mocked for that matter, he was a bestselling author in the 19th century, beloved by the reading public.

Herman Melville and Edward Bulwere-Lytton are but two examples of how popularity when it comes to a writer and their books can change. It’s possible to write a story that the audience wants, only for it to sink into the quicksand of obscurity in the future. Likewise, it’s possible to write a book that fails to sell, only for it grow to critical acclaim as the years or the centuries pass by. Still, it’s only fair to mention that some books may be popular when they were written and still be classics now while some books may always be unknown. One just can’t tell.

Certainly many of the editors who turned down the works of J.K. Rowling and Dr. Seuss probably didn’t see their work as becoming popular or profitable. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone would be rejected twelve times. Dr. Seuss’s first book, To Think That I Saw it on Mullberry Street, would be rejected twenty-seven times. But Harry Potter has become a cultural phenomenon that has spawned movies, spin offs, and a theme park. The works of Dr. Seuss are still resonating with children today, having almost turned into a yardstick in which all children’s literature is measured in terms of quality.

Now, I’m not naive to think that my writing is going to become classic literature, beloved by millions. But I’m not so pessimistic to think that it can’t happen either. I acknowledge that writing in the hopes that others love your work is a gamble. There’s a chance that my work will never be heavily successful. But what if I were to write “what people want,” only to produce a flop? I would much rather take that gamble and write what I want to write about, to put down on paper what is in my heart and soul. Shakespeare said “to thine own self be true.” I would rather be true to myself, regardless of where it takes me.

 

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Cover of 1980s re-release of “Moby Dick,” published by Readers Digest. A once obscure book, now a classic.

 

Is My Writing any Good? A Writer’s Concerns

Is my writing any good? It’s a valid question asked by most writers, particularly when one wants to publish their work and share it with the world. I know that I have asked this many times. Most of us like to think that we have drunk deeply from the mead of Kvasir, that mead in Norse myths that gave people the gift of poetry. But are we poets or are we fools? Do we write as eloquently and as thoughtfully as Shakespeare? Do we write as passionate as Stephen King? Do we compose stories as mythical and poetic as Tolkien or as complex and scientific as Asimov? Can we write engaging characters, who grow on us, like J.K. Rowling, Charles Dickens, or Robin Hobbe can? Do our words present the world in a new light? Are they doorways into fantasy worlds? Or do our words lie dead on the sheets of dead trees they were printed on? All of the aforementioned are particularly important when one wants to know if the story is good enough as is or if it needs to be rewritten or just plain scraped. So, how does one know if a short story or novel one is writing has potential or if it’s a flop? Here are some pointers that have greatly helped me out.

Have numerous friends and family read it.
Okay. I know what some of you long time readers of my blog are thinking. Didn’t I write a post a year ago in which I bemoaned the fact that I didn’t feel supported enough by my friends and family who never ended up reading my writing? True. I did state as much. However, with a little bit of luck, you will always have a few friends and family who will read your work and offer feedback. Of course, what if friends and family don’t want to hurt your feelings by being honest? This brings up the next point.

Have strangers read your work.
Strangers tend to be more honest and partial when reading a manuscript. While it’s not always easy to get feedback from strangers, there are some good sites to receive potential feedback. I have had some luck on Booksie.com. On Booksie you can post your poetry, short stories, and chapters of novels. Likewise, blog sites such as WordPress or Blogger can be a great platform for finding feedback, if the writer works hard on building up an audience. One way to do so is to find other blogs to leave comments on, thus getting yourself known about. Aside from the online option, face to face can be extremely beneficial. Writers groups who meet in public tend to be brutally honest. In this case, a thick skin is needed as your writing will be picked apart piece by piece in public. It’s also important to find a writing group that can be supportive of you.

Some things to consider.
Every writer has their own style that won’t resonate with everyone  but will resonate with others. This is an important fact to keep in mind when having your writing critiqued. This is a rule I go by, if numerous friends and strangers like my writing, but only one or a few don’t, then I go by what the majority feels. If the majority says my story needs work, then I listen to the majority.   For instance, I had a children’t book I was working on, and the majority of my readers said “this needs work,” as well as “you really need to read more children’s books.” I was thankful and took their advice and rewrote it. On the other hand, when I wrote a short fantasy story, I had many people, strangers included, praise it, but I had one friend tear into it, saying everything wrong with it. I disagreed with much of what he had to say, and since the majority liked it, I figured it was just a different taste on his part. To elucidate, some people will see Herman Melville’s work as the William Shakespeare of America, whereas others will find it long-winded and preachy. Some will see Tolkien as poetic and otherworldly, while some will see his characters as flat and wooden and his descriptions tedious. Some will see the writing of Mark Twain as witty social satire that withstands the test of time, others will find him to be obnoxious and a boor. Some may find an author’s writing too flowery, being overloaded with purple prose, while some will see it as a rich feast for the mind to dine on. Some will see another author’s writing as dull and dry, lacking emotion and passion, while others will find it crisp and straight to the point. In short, you can’t please everyone.

In closing.
It’s not easy being a writer, I can attest. Like my fellow writers, I want to create stories and novels that inspire people today and for future generations. It’s easy to put blinders on, in which we are so enamored with our work that we don’t see the glaring flaws in it. On the other end of the spectrum it’s easy to take criticism so personally that we don’t stop and ask if the reader makes a valid point or if it’s only the reader’s personal preference and opinion. Hopefully these steps I’ve shared, though far from being perfect, will give a little bit of help to the struggling writers out there.

Cold Shades Ch 1

I worry about the future. I see all the increase in technology and it scares me. Many things that I feared when I had the idea for writing this book are already now being invented. I feel an urgency now to write this book and get it out there. So, here is the first chapter of my dystopian novel Cold Shades. There will be some spelling, punctuation, and other grammatical errors, seeing as I have not sent this into my editor yet, but I hope you find the story thought-provoking anyway. Note: I recommend this story for ages 18 and up due to some of the harsh adult subject matter.

Rebecca Brown, simply known as Becca, rarely left her home. There was no need to. All of the necessities of life were supplied right at her fingertips, her home providing her with everything she needed. Even her work could be done at home.  

               At the moment, Becca was typing on her computer screen, but not in the archaic manner with her fingers. Instead, the computer monitor, which was almost paper thin, and attached to the wall, was reading the words she was thinking from a chip imbedded in her brain. Fresh words scrolled across the screen, as fast as she could think them. If she made an error, needing to delete something, all she had to do was clench her fist and say, “delete.” In this case, she told the program to “delete the third paragraph.” She had been composing an email to an irate customer in too much anger, and the third paragraph had been particularly volatile. There would be much deleting ahead.

               It was hard to work with idiots day in and day out, and that was putting it lightly. It was overwhelming.

               Her stomach grumbled, letting her know in no uncertain terms that it needed nourishment. A break was in order.

                “Restaurants,” Becca said, causing the computer to project a list of local eateries. “Chinese,” she continued, realizing she hadn’t had one of her favorite meals in a while; sweet and sour pork. The computer narrowed her choices solely to those catering in Chinese food. “Mrs. Yang’s” she said. Projecting straight out of the computer screen and right into her living room was a Chinese waitress, wearing a long red dress of silk, her black hair curled into a bun. Though only an illusion, the likeness of a real person was impeccable.

Holograms over the years had made such leaps and bounds that most people applauded the technological advancements as modern marvels. And yet, they were a different type of hologram than the old images which were formed by beams of light making 3D images. These holograms were extra lifelike. For such holograms may as well not have been called such. The very illusions Becca saw before here were produced from the chip in her head, causing her brain and her eyes to visualize it all. It’s not to say that the paper thin computer upon her wall didn’t help with producing such images. The chip within Becca’s brain, which was a small computer in and of itself, sent a signal to the computer upon the wall, and thus both computers collaborated together to form said illusion.

As things were, not everyone was pleased with such technology. Some hated it. But though there were a few Socrates’ and Platos’ still in the world who didn’t approve of it, they harping on the analogy of the cave with its shadows and illusions, such luddites had always been a rare breed.         

“Welcome to Mrs. Yang’s,” the waitress said, “a house of the finest Chinese cuisine to satisfy you and your families’ appetites. Would you like to try our special today?”

               “What’s today’s special?” asked Becca.

               “Today’s special is twice-cooked pork, fried-cheese wontons, and three egg rolls, plus a drink, all for six-ninety five,” said the waitress as a perfect 3D image of the food appeared before her.

               Tempting price, but Becca didn’t care for twice-cooked pork. “No,” she said.

               “Would you like to see our menu?”

               “Yes.”

               “Let me know when you’re ready to order.”

Illusions of smorgasboards of delicious foods, followed by descriptions of each one, popped up into her living room in crystal clear precision, as though they could be grabbed. Such realism further satiated her hunger. Becca browsed, not bothering to say another word to the waitress until she ordered. It would be pointless to do so anyway, as the waitress, being a recorded person, could only respond to certain words and phrases. It was a normal tactic done by all restaurant management; video record a person, then program that image and voice into the computer, in which they would respond to certain phrases and words. There was no use asking how she was doing. She wasn’t fine, sad, angry, or flustered; she just was as is. It would be pointless telling her that her red dress laced with etchings of golden dragons was appreciated. It wouldn’t affect her in any way. She was only the shell of the waitress recorded for customers to see, not the actual person.

               After looking over it all, the appetizers, entrees, dinners, and side dishes, Becca was still confident about her previous decision. “I would like the sweet and sour pork with a side of ham fried rice,” said Becca.

               “Anything to drink?”

               “No.”

               “Will that be all?”

               “Yes.”

               “Your total comes to seven twenty-five,” said the waitress. “Are you ready for us to scan your chip?”

               “Go for it!” Becca assented.

               A laser reader came out from her computer, scanning the chip implanted in her brain. “Ms. Rebecca Brown, age thirty-one, of 4213 Willington Dr. Las Angeles, California,” said the waitress. “Is this correct?”

               “Yes,” said Rebecca.

               “Is there anything else?” asked the hologram waitress.

               “No.”

               “Thank you for ordering from Mrs. Yangs,” the image said with a bow. “Your food will be arriving shortly.”

               Becca didn’t immediately return to work, opting to sprawl across her couch instead. Besides, she couldn’t concentrate anyway, being as hungry as she was. She was sure that it was her hunger that was causing her to be short with the customer.

                As she waited for her food, she thought of how much of a nuisance it was ordering out. Sure, it was convenient, but it came with a price, and that price was more than money. She was certain that she would be dreaming of Mrs. Yang’s off and on, just as she dreamed about some of her other favorite restaurants. It wasn’t uncommon for these companies to hack into the chip when one was asleep to send images into it, causing customers to dream. It was the most effective form of advertising ever.

               Originally, there had been laws passed against this, as the courts had deemed it as an infringement upon peoples’ privacy, but the ruling didn’t hold up long. Corporations made the argument that they weren’t actually ‘prying into peoples’ thoughts,’ but rather were ‘only broadcasting their products.’ While this had still seemed invasive, in the end money and corporate interests won out against lawmakers and legislatures against it. Bribery was a surefire way to get politicians on the side of the corporations.

               Besides, it wasn’t like many people cared about the advertisements in their sleep anyway. Society was bombarded by advertisements on a daily basis. At this very moment, Becca was wearing a t-shirt that screened images of the latest products on it, from a very narrow and flexible computerized screen that picked up satellite signals. Even the legging of her pants had a thin vertical screen running down them, with ever-changing words advertising the newest game released or the latest movie out. This had cut down greatly on the price of clothing, making it very inexpensive. As for the advertisements transferred as dreams into peoples’ sleep, most corporations were smart enough to know not to overdo it. Usually the dreams were subtle, sometimes to the point that people could hardly remember them; only the subliminal message remained.

               Growing tired of just lounging upon her couch, Becca decided to experience a movie from her computer. Televisions were a thing of the past, computers having completely taken over, just as they had with everything else. And like everything else, the computer program for the movie worked to send a signal to her chip, enabling her to be engulfed in the movie.

               Cars in a high speed chased rushed past her, the sounds of bullets blazing by and tires burning rubber assaulting her ears. Sometimes she found herself enveloped in a fiery explosion, to see the hero walk out of it towards her, so life-like that she felt she could reach out and touch him. Or she was soaring with a jet above the snowy Swiss Alps, her favorite scene as it showed a time before they were almost all covered in housing developments.

               Everything was so-lifelike while experiencing a movie that one had to not get carried away. Becca remembered back to when she was experiencing one of her favorite films, a movie about brave adventurers looking for hidden treasure in an ancient, crumbling temple. She had grown so excited during the scenes in which the travelers were jumping from one crumbling platform to another over a chasm that she tried to jump with them, only to break her right leg on her table. Needless to say, she had spent the rest of the day in the hospital, being attended to by robotic nurses. Becca learned to sit still during a movie.  

               ‘Your food is here,’ said a pleasant computer automated voice over her speaker. Becca ordered the film to shut down, plunging her back into her boring living room.

At her door was a Delivery Bot. The robot was constructed simplistic enough, being built more like a car, and able to hold numerous orders in its interior, which was always heated by a heat lamp. Like an average car, it hovered. A large metal neck jutted out from the front, ending in what looked like a pair of oversized binoculars for vision. It held a bag of food in one metallic hand, while the other hand was a card scanner, greedily outstretched, as hungry for the payment as Becca was for the food. Becca quickly paid him. No chit-chat, no time wasted. Just paying the machine and getting her food.

 As the Delivery Bot flew off, Becca thought back to the history books she read, which told of a time that human delivery had caused too many problems with drivers because of their irresponsibility or their demanding of raises. Robots were the logical answer to the problem. And not just for restaurants, but for grocery stores too. Robots now delivered everything from fresh eggs, meats, and fish, to cereal and bread, to cleaners and soaps and so forth, meaning one never had to leave their home to go to go the grocery store either.

               Though Becca had no need to go outside, she still liked to. While it was true that many people chose to stay inside, living in a state of eternal hibernation, she craved the fresh air. She decided that she would end her work day early and let the disgruntled customer wait, finish up her meal, take a break from her movie, and go outside.

She did just that.

Outside she was greeted by houses spread out for miles in all directions, a sea of concrete and plaster. In-between blocks of neighborhoods, one might come across a store or a restaurant, here and there. There were, of course, office buildings, but they were more conglomerated downtown and there was only a few of them. Still, though very few people worked white collar jobs anymore, the few office buildings downtown were islands of steel and spires sticking out of the ocean of plaster homes.

Soaring in the sky above Becca were a couple of cars. She had very mixed feeling about cars. Her boyfriend had died in one. Fairly frequently, the news reported terrible car wrecks. One that stuck out in her memory most vividly was of a drunk driver, who had dismantled the automated flying program, and who came plummeting down into the living room of a family. The parents and the children were all killed, being squashed under the car. One would have thought that since cars were computer operated, being self-driven, that car wrecks would have been a tragedy consigned to the annals of history. But this was not the case. For starters there were many hackers who got a sick thrill out of hacking into someone’s car terminal and rerouting the designated safe route into a building or into a skyway with cars flying in the opposite direction. It didn’t seem to matter how many security programs were newly put in place, as hackers loved the challenge of finding ways around them. Even if someone’s personal car was up to date in terms of hacking defense it still couldn’t always save them from a hacker who liked the challenge of cracking the code. Still, like the drunk driver who had killed the family, there were people who still wanted to fly cars themselves, abhorring the idea of a computer taking away the fun. So, they would find ways, if smart enough, or hire someone who had the technical skills in disabling the automated flight program. In short, Pandora’s Box had been opened, and not solely by flying cars, but by the advent of putting computers into cars even before they could fly.  

Becca continued on her walk, choosing not to focus on the macabre scenario. It made her think too much of her deceased boyfriend.

Instead she kept her eyes open for interesting people she could possibly meet. Though not many people were out and about, there were certainly a few.

One fine specimen caught Becca’s eyes. He was tall and broad shouldered. He wore a polo shirt, and a pair of khakis. Upon his shirt an advertisement was ending for a new cereal brand, making way for an ad about the newest in automated indoor sprinkling systems to put out house fires. She would have loved to have stared at his firm, strong legs, but the ad running down his khakis for a latest cell-phone update that could be installed in the computer chip was too distracting. It was best jut to focus on his face. He flashed her a smile that looked as though it could come off the cover of a romance novel.

“Hello there,” said Becca.

“Hello,” reciprocated the handsome man. “Where do you come from?”

Becca shrugged. “Just this neighborhood, I’m afraid. Nothing exciting, I know.”

“Nothing exciting? I can hardly believe that. What’s your name?”

“My name is Rebecca Brown,” she said, extending her hand for him to shake. “But just call me Becca.”

“It’s a pleasure to meet you Becca,” said the man, shaking her hand. “I’m Theodore Green. Kind of a dorky name, I know.”

“Not at all. It sounds strong, masculine.”

“That’s very kind of you. Anyway, you can call me Ted.”

“Okay, Ted,” Becca nodded. “Are you from around these parts?”  

Ted shook his head. “No. I live on the other end of town. But you know, getting restless and all, I decided I’d take a scenic drive.”

“Scenic!” exclaimed Becca in disbelief. “Why? I didn’t think the neighborhood south of here looked much different than this one. Also, why even take a walk here when you can just take one on your end?”

“I’m sorry, but I’m not sure of what you’re getting at,” said Ted.

“Oh, don’t worry about it. It seems kind of weird, but whatever.”

“Say, do you like cars?” he asked, changing the subject.

“Not really. My boyfriend was killed in one.”

“I’m so sorry to hear that,” said Ted. “I hope I didn’t dredge up any painful memories.”

“It’s okay,” said Becca. “I’d like to take a look at your car anyway,” she lied. Nonetheless two factors prompted the lie, her feelings of infatuation, and it being rude to turn down someone being friendly.

Besides, she was lonely, not having gone on a date for quite some time. She needed to get out more, to dance, to feel the embrace of the opposite sex. She had been working far too hard not to indulge in some healthy human interaction. Customers sending angry emails, in which she reciprocated twice as angrily, was not good bonding with her fellow man.

“Right on!” said Ted. “Follow me.” Becca did so, without thinking of the potential consequences of blindly following a stranger. Her parents had warned her, ever since she was a child, of the dangers of just trusting anybody. It was one of the reasons they had enrolled her in virtual classes, so as not to have to deal with bully and school shootings. In this case, her parents would certainly warn her against following a stranger to his car. And Ted was strange, strange in his mannerisms, and with the way he answered questions.

               It only took a minute to come to Ted’s pride and glory, an Orange Bolt 3000. It was sleek and beautiful. Its coloring was that of a sunset, a bright orange, slowly fading to a purple, with a yellow stripe running across the middle of it. It was modeled after the old convertibles in that it lacked a roof.

               “Would you like to hop in for a drive?” Ted opened the door and wore an expression bespeaking of himself as the perfect gentlemen. “We can go to your place or mine. Maybe we could even get a beer, chill out, watch a movie?”

               “Gee, thanks for the invite,” said Becca. “But, I’m not ready for that yet. I mean, let’s get real for a sec. I just met you.”

               “I’m sorry, but is there a problem with the car?” asked Ted.

               Problem with the car? Becca couldn’t believe her ears. She hadn’t said a thing about the car. Still, he was kind of cute, and she was lonely. “How about we meet up some time,” she ventured, not wanting to ruin an opportunity to jump back into the dating pool.

               “That’d be great! What do you like to do?”

               “Let’s go to a bar and get plastered,” she said, staring at an advertisement for her favorite beer playing across his shirt. “We could go to a bar and clubbing.”  

               “Awesome,” said Ted, excitedly. “I’m down for whatever. Maybe I can pick you up in my car.”

               “Cool, let’s do it! But I’ll meet you there. I’m not ready to ride with you yet. No offense, but you are a stranger.”

               “Can I get your number?”

               Becca reluctantly gave it, and in turn he gave her his, the small chip in her head saving it. Now she noticed that the screen on Ted’s polo was primarily showing off different cars. They made a little more chit-chat before Ted drove off.

Overall, Becca had found the conversation to be peculiar, and she was a little annoyed that it often came back to his car. Before leaving he had at least talked about his car for five minutes, boasting about how wonderful it was. Yet, he was kind enough, and she didn’t sense any danger from him.

               An older man, who happened to be passing by, shot Becca an inquisitive glance and said, “You do know that he is nothing than a walking advertisement, don’t you?”

                “Aren’t we all?” she chuckled seeing an ad playing on the old man’s cap for a new virtual game.

               “No. I mean it’s more than that,” the man said.  

Becca shrugged. Maybe she didn’t get it, but she didn’t care. She had been trying so hard to forget about her last boyfriend that she would take the quirks of a new one, even if those quirks were talking about cars. Besides, it’d be a lie to say that she didn’t have her own interests, such as movies and books, which could make her quirky. Who was she to judge someone for loving cars?  She only hoped that if something were to develop between the two of them that he would broaden his horizons.

               Becca could have gotten lost in her reverie of finding romance until she remembered that today was the day that she had to visit her deadbeat brother. She didn’t relish this. But she had made a promise to be his wet nurse and she was stuck with her decision. Taking a deep breath, she reminded herself that he lived within walking distance and that she could keep the visit brief.

               Walking briskly, Becca found herself there in no less than five minutes. A laser came down from the front porch, scanning her chip. Only after it had obtained and analyzed all the data did it grant her entrance.

               She found her brother laying sprawled out on the couch, a slug of a man, slowly but steadily drowning under waves of his own fat.

               “I don’t suppose you brought me something to eat?” he asked.

               How typical! Of course that would be the first question out of his voracious vacuum of a mouth.

               “You know, if you hadn’t of lied on the questioner, you probably wouldn’t be immobilized here on your fat ass,” Becca said without worrying the least bit about candor.  

               “Ah, cut me some slack,” her brother protested. “You know that I tried to sound convincing.”

               “Harold,” cried out Becca in exasperation, “you told the computer that you had prior work experience as a manager. How the hell did you think that would go over?”

               “I wasn’t thinking” –

               “So what else is new?” Becca cut him off. “Harold, even if they didn’t verify through your work history and past employers, the lie detector chip is more than enough to tell them that you are full of shit. A quick scan from a computer monitors your heart rate, your brain waves, just about everything that could give you away. I shouldn’t even be telling you this. You should be smart enough to know this.”

               “Well, I’m not, so excuse me,” shouted Harold. “I’ve never been as smart as you. Never as brilliant.”

               “Harold. You have genius level abilities in the study of history and linguistics. You have no right to call yourself stupid. In your case it’s not about brilliance, it’s just about common sense.”

               “Yeah, well I guess I lack that.”

               Becca was flustered. Why did this have to be so hard? She and Harold had always clashed. This was nothing new. And yet, she couldn’t help but feel sorry for him. Most problems he faced in life he had brought upon himself, but society didn’t make it any easier, not with computers in all.

               Computers had long ago taken over the interview process. It had started out simple enough, with many large companies using computers to do online applications. Now computers were advanced enough to conduct interviews. Computers were supposed to be so advanced in terms of hiring by ascertaining the honesty of the interviewee, and the interviewee’s skills and weaknesses. In theory it was supposed to be simple, but in reality it made life more difficult.

               No matter how smart the AI was, no matter what questions the computer could ask, no matter how capable it was of reading heart-rate and brain waves to analyze honesty, there was still room for a great margin of error.

               Harold had had the misfortune of being interviewed by a particularly hard computer program from a prestigious educational firm. He had wanted to be a museum curator, and had studied hard for many years at an expensive virtual university, paying out huge sums of money and appropriating a large debt in student loans, only to have it capitulate in a small apartment. The thread which had led to his career demise had slowly unwound into a tangle of mess after he had graduated. He had made the mistake of taking a year sabbatical before finding a job, in order to help out their sick mother. In retrospect, Harold should have just taken that opportunity to interview for the museum.

               But could have he in good conscious?

               Their mother had been being treated for cancer for over a year, and she had gradually been growing worse. Nothing the life-like android nurses could do could help her. There had been a couple of flesh and blood doctors there, but they had seldom visited her, except at brief intervals, having so many other things to attend to. Becca had visited her a few times a month when she could manage. If she had of known her mother’s condition was that bad, she would have visited her more. To this Becca still felt heavy guilt. It was Harold who had taken up the mantle of caring for their mother. It was he who had helped her improve for a little while. It didn’t last, but for a short time she was happier.

               However, her brother’s sacrifice had come with a price. The computerized interview had asked him if he had been engaged in any education or work in that one year gap. When he had told the computer that he was looking after his mother, the computer had only responded with, ‘I don’t understand. Have you been employed or enrolled in any schooling this past year?’ He should have said no. But he had known that doing so would have brought on the high probability of barring him from future interviews. So, panicking, he had lied, telling the computer that he had spent the last year enrolled as a supervisor for robotic tour guides at historic sites. It didn’t take long for the computer to read his brain waves and his heart-rate, finding that he was lying. Since then, Harold’s reputation had spread through other computer employment systems, effectively lowering his chances fifty-fold of landing a job.

               Now, her brother was living off of borrowed funds from their deceased parents, and from Becca herself. He could hardly pay the tuition costs back and he hardly had a sufficient amount for his own living conditions. It wouldn’t be long until Becca would have to take her brother in to live with her, seeing as the funds within his chip would soon be depleted.

               “I’m sure something will come up,” Becca lied.

               “Yeah, maybe if I can get some pills to take that change the heart rate and the brain-waves to fool the computer,” said Harold.

               “Those are illegal!”

               “Oh, I’d sell my own mother to afford pills to cheat the system,” he shrugged.

               “Not funny,” said Becca. She wanted to slap him for that remark. But she controlled herself by remembering that her brother never had much of a filter to begin with. Besides, despite that utterly tasteless joke over their dead mother, he had still been the one to watch over her, not she, thus getting himself into this predicament. “Harold,” she said in a softer tone, “I know it’s rough right now. But you’re bound to find something.”

               “Like what? Who in the hell would have me?”

               Becca was at a loss for words. Very few companies would hire Harold. “What can I do to help make your life easier?” she asked instead.

               “Well, you could buy me some of those cream filled cookies. You know the kind I like! I can then happily gorge myself on those. You can also buy me some packs of my favorite beer. I can use those to vomit out my sorrow.”

               “Damn it, Harold!” exclaimed Becca. “What good will that do?”

               “You’re one to talk, you and your pious, holier-than-thou attitude,” pointed out Harold, shaking a fat fist at her, without even standing up. “You at least have a job. I don’t have jack-shit! How dare you have the nerve lecturing me about how morally wrong slowly killing myself is! Well, society is slowly killing me a little bit each and every day. If I’m to die, at least let it be from drinking myself to death, or a heart attack brought on by too much sweets.”

               Becca blushed. He was right. She had no right to condemn him.

               “I’m sorry, Harold,” she whispered. “I’ll see what I can do.”

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Who Shall Lead: Full Ch 1

Here is the first chapter of a fantasy novel I am working on entitled Who Shall Lead. Those of you who were here when I started this blog may recall that I posted portions of the first chapter, but now I am posting the first chapter in it’s entirety. Note: It hasn’t been edited yet, so there is bound to be errors galore. But it will be edited in time. Until then, enjoy the story.

A very light breeze blowing a couple grains of sand past the tent made it to the ears of Arinthia, an obnoxious brushing sound, causing her to wake up. The scratching of a tiny volmont spider grated against the grains of wood on one of the tent’s poles. Five feet away from her tent, she could hear a plains hopper, a small insect, chomping away on the grass.

Like all Xibians, Arinthia was blind, but with keen ears that more than made up for it. She could hear a blossom fall from a flower, or the first drop of rain splash from almost a quarter of a mile away. If sounds grew too intense, she was able to shut them out; a light gift that came with the curse. Blindness was not a deterrent or handicap to her people. For thousands of generations the Xibians had lived without sight, the very concept of it being foreign and incomprehensible to them.

Arinthia arose yawning and put on her robe, the dandel hide feeling good against her skin on such a cold morning. Winter was coming, that much was certain. She could even hear the change of seasons crackling in the air.

Crawling out of her tent, she was greeted by the noise of a pair of footsteps walking in a wide gape, carrying a quick stride. Everyone in the village recognized it to be that of Keyro, one of their top hunters.

“Good day, Arinthia,” he said, too loudly which almost hurt everyone’s hearing. “How are you this fine day?”

“I don’t know,” said Arinthia, “seeing as the day has only just begun. What do you want, Keyro?”

“For you to join me on the hunt.” The air whistled as he extended an arm.  

“And by hunt,” she formed the sentence slowly, “do you mean that I’ll be able to carry a bow and take down animals as well?”

“That’s silly!” he made no effort to disguise his disgust. “You’re a woman. Your job is to clean the carcasses and to cook.”

“Can’t do it,” said Arinthia. “I’d probably burn it, or season the meat with the wrong herbs.”

“It’s not that hard!” protested Keyro.

“Then if it’s not that hard, then I’m sure that you can manage.”

“But it’s not a man’s job.”

“Nor is it my job either,” said Arinthia, hoping to cut the conversation short.

“You really need to be put in your place!” he chided.

Arinthia sighed inwardly. No such luck.

“You were made by Father above to be subservient” continued Keyro, his finger noisily cutting through the air. “What do you think he’ll say when your spirit passes through the gates of the dead, up the bridge to the island above? Can you imagine how disappointed he’ll be in his disobedient daughter, always mouthing off? He’ll teach you a lesson, you can be sure. Father will punish you by having you clean the pots and pans of the Eternal Kitchen forever.”

“Well, if that’s the case, then I’ll have an ally in Mother above,” huffed Arinthia. “She’ll chastise him as only a woman can, and she’ll make him sleep alone while she takes all the royal bedding. Then she’ll threaten him with an annulment of their marriage.”

“How dare you speak lightly of Father above,” roared Keyro.

 “How dare you,” she raised her voice even louder, hoping to cause his ears to bleed, “to even think I’d want to be sealed as your companion when you’re not a man, but a mere boy who failed his rite of initiation.”

Now she could her Keyro’s blood flush in his face and the grinding of his teeth. In a sense, she could hear his anger, and it was palpable. Her sharp tongue had cut through a nerve.

“If you weren’t a woman, I’d slap you across the face,” he hissed.

“What difference does it make it I’m a woman or not,” she retorted. “You shouldn’t be hitting anyone, be it male or female.”

A heavy staff thudded upon the dirt, reverberating like an earthquake.

“Lay a hand on her and I’ll lay my staff on you,” came the raspy voice of Jorgek.

“You don’t scare me, old man,” boasted Keyro.

Stupid, Arinthia thought to herself. If you wanted to lie, you had to lie well. Keyro couldn’t lie to save his own life. He couldn’t even control the thumping of his own heart. The perspiring sweat streaming off of him, like a roaring river, didn’t do him any favors either.

“Shall I knock you on your backside,” ventured Jorgek, the air rushing across his staff as he raised it up in intimidation.

Keyro backed off.

“That impudent brush hopper!” exclaimed Jorgek. “My dear, did he” – The old Xibian paused, completely puzzled. Arinthia was laughing. “I fail to see what’s so funny,” he said.

“You don’t?” she asked.

Arinthia always loved Jorgek. The oldest of the Xibians in the tribe came across as grumpy and bitter to a lot of the others, but that was only because they never made time to get to know him. Those who did found a kindly old man under the rough exterior, quick to right wrongs. In that sense, he was much like Arinthia.

She had known him for years. When she was a child, she had originally feared him. But unlike all the other children who had feared him, she alone had approached him, having possessed the courage that many her age had lacked. It was the courage to listen to listen to each and every one of his footsteps. To hear the way he gritted his teeth in frustration, or the sound his eyelids made when they opened and closed. She let her ears swallow and digest each of the old Xibian’s sounds until she grew to learn what kind of a person he was. She grew to hear his inside appearance, not his outside. His heart was the most useful in helping her come to a conclusion regarding his personality. Certainly he yelled at young children to keep their distance, and he didn’t, generally speaking, have much patience with just about anyone else, even those his age. But when people were frustrated or in pain he was the first to lend a listening ear if they would let him.

It wasn’t to say that she became friends with the old Xibian overnight. Jorgek had many social barriers he had put into place to guard himself with. But in time, just by listening, she began to be able to relate to him. This slowly opened up communication, and eventually a mutual understanding. Then, as the years passed, a friendship blossomed like a flower in the spring after a long winter. From her later childhood to the present it was common for her to hunt with him in the fields, to help him make leather from the wild shargits, and to sometimes to just philosophize about life. He had taken upon himself the mantle of a grandfather she had never had.

There were only a couple of topics that were points of contention among the two of them. One such was regarding the Vun. Jorgek believed peace should and could be made between them and the Xibians, whereas Arinthia knew better. Those that could see were enemies, having killed her parents and many others. They had robbed her people of their birthright years ago. Some things could never be forgiven. But she could forgive Jorgek for holding at that faulty viewpoint.

Regardless, she wasn’t thinking of any of her qualms of his at the moment, being far more grateful that he had come to her aid. Hence her laughter. She was laughing because she knew that he would be there, for at least a little while longer, to protect her.

“You should have heard the way he ran off, the way his heart was about to burst through his chest, and the noise of his sweat flying off him,” laughed Arinthia.

“My dear girl, I heard it all,” said Jorgek. “I’m not deaf, yet. But when I am, you know what to do.”

Indeed she did. If a Xibian ever lost his or her hearing it was considered an act of mercy to take them upon the altar to offer them up as a blood sacrifice. When one had outlived their purpose, their blood could potentially heal the land if the gods were well pleased with how they lived their lives.

“I do,” said Arinthia. “But let’s not think of that now. Did you not tell me yesterday that you wished for the two of us to go hunting this morning?”

“Yes. I’m so glad you remembered,” his teeth clacked and his lips smacked into a smile. He sighed. “But I digress. I’m getting old. You know this. What hope does an old Xib like me have against the freshness of youth?”

“You mean to tell me that you just lied about being able to give Keyro a beating? Don’t doubt yourself, old man. You’ll grow senile before you lose the strength of your legs.”

“Why, you’re just as impudent as he!”

Arinthia shrugged. “Did this just now dawn on your mind? Don’t tell me it took you over fifteen years to finally come to this conclusion. I want to think that your mind is as quick as your legs.”

“Ha!” laughed the old Xibian. “My fists are the quickest, and if you insist on being treated like a man rather than a woman, I’ll knock you on the ground so fast that you won’t hear the wind rushing past my fists.”

“No, I give up,” she laughed. “You really could give me bruises.”

“You’re absolutely right on that account. When I was a young man, I was the envy of the tribe, able to take on the Chief himself. I could have any woman I wanted. I was the pinnacle of” –

“Now you’re just making stuff up,” interjected Arinthia. “Are you going to keep babbling on? At this rate the herds will have moved out of our territory.”

“My dear, you know perfectly well that my hearing is superb and that I would have been the first to hear them. Not you. But I do grow weary of your biting tongue. Maybe some good old hunting will shut you up.”

“I think you’re right,” she nodded. “I’m growing impatient.”

“Then there’s only one way to cure that,” he said before shortly taking off, the air whistling to a near screech because of his speed. After all these years, age hadn’t slowed him. He still soared over the land, even with a staff in hand. It was Arinthia who had to keep up.

She could hear each blade of grass pummeled under his feet, some blades sloshing and some crunching and some doing a little of both, depending on the amount of water they had received. The flapping noises of the tents against the light breeze and the crackling of the morning fires grew fainter as they neared the mile mark out of the tribe.

They were approaching over the Dead Plains; a misplaced name if there ever was one;  considering they were far from dead, or being anywhere near the thresholds of death. Rather, the plains were living and breathing with all manner of life placed by the loving gods above. Soft thuds of insects echoed throughout the Dead Plains, accompanied to the thunderous tunes of the hooves of the mighty shagrits. Sometimes the mighty shagrit beasts snorted, causing the air to reverberate around their breath. Arinthia could slightly hear the shagrit’s fur crinkle when a small fly landed upon them. Aside from the shagrits, other animals could be heard nearby. From the ground, came a light but steady scratching, as the tiny claws of the little blue and red moles constructed their tunnels. Sharp teeth gritted, like a rocks being scraped against other rocks, about a quarter of a mile away. It was the ulyix’s getting ready to hunt their prey, the shagrits.

Arinthia chided herself. While her ears were too enraptured by the cacophony of nature, Jorgek had already found a suitable hiding place behind a boulder. The air whistled around the musical note of his bowstring as he slowly pulled it back. The first kill would be his. Not that his obtaining the first kill mattered in the scheme of things, but she and the old Xibian had a contest as to who could achieve the first kill. For a moment it look as if it would be his. But, as luck would have it, Jorgek, in his anticipation, didn’t pull the bow string back far enough and the arrow thudded just a couple of inches away from the shagrit’s hoof.

The rumble and dirt being kicked up from the lumbering beast indicated that it was running to the west. With no time to lose, she took a shot at the beast. Her arrow whistled through the air, singing of death, piercing her ears. But it found its mark. The shagrit fell to the earth. The beast’s heartbeat, still pounding like thunder, grew fainter and fainter until it was mere whisper, to whence it was no more.

“Looks like dinner is on me tonight,” boasted Arinthia.

“I let you have it,” snorted Jorgek. “Besides, I’m getting too old for hunting and cooking anyway.”

“And yet you were able to outrun me,” she pointed out to the old man.

“Is that so? No wonder I had no energy left for hunting.”

“Come, old friend,” Arinthia patted his shoulder. “I’m going to prepare you a dinner fit for a village chieftain, using only the finest herbs and spices.”

“Such as the kind you can get from the fields on any day,” he pointed out.

“You have no imagination,” laughed Arinthia.

“I’m afraid I burnt mine out many years ago,” he sighed.

“No matter, old man. Dinner is still on me.”

Back at the tribe’s encampment, Arinthia was greeted by the gossip of the women and the girls, and it was no wonder. She had blood on her from when she and Jorgek had carried down the large shagrit; something that was very unbecoming of a woman, both the hunting of an animal and the lifting of anything heavy. To further the indignation of the tribe, Arinthia had broken another code by not washing after she had cut up the pieces of meat to leave hanging out by her tent before cooking them. If a woman or a girl was to get herself dirty, she was to wash herself immediately, something Arinthia had always refused to do. It was bad enough when the women of the tribe got a speck of dirt on them, but to have specks of blood, that was blasphemy to the gods themselves.

Jorgek would have fended her from the malicious gossip and the outright verbal abuse, but he was incapacitated, having hurt his back helping to carry the strips of meat of the animal. Not that Arinthia minded being alone. She saw herself as far from being a damsel in distress. She could hold her own, particularly against the three primary instigators, even if they held important positions of power within the tribe. There was Zylin, a daughter of a high priest, Hymla, one of daughters of the chief’s advisors, and finally, conducting herself with the greatest of pomp and the greatest of self-aggrandizement, there was Kywal, the Chief’s daughter. Zylin and Hymla followed Kywal as though she were a goddess herself, worthy of their admiration and subjugation. Certainly the chief’s daughter did order them about, but in the end they found it worth it to be a part of the elite. There were numerous members of the tribe who they snubbed their noses at, but Arinthia was by the far the one they enjoyed showing their condescension to the most, and the reason was obvious. For at least the other women, even though they were of lower rank, still knew their place as women. But it stirred the hearts of Kywal, Zylin, and Hymla to anger that Arinthia couldn’t accept her place.

“Still acting beastly, I see,” Kywal’s voice grated like a spear piercing animal bone. “Really Arinthia, would it hurt you to exercise more feminine restraint and dignity?”

“I wouldn’t know,” Arinthia shrugged. “I had no one as an example to learn it from, least of all you three.”

The sounds of Kywal’s fists clenching, along with the rapid beating of her heart, collaborated together to produce a dissonance of rage. By the sounds of things, Arinthia knew that she had crossed a line, but she didn’t care. Though Kywal wanted to strike her, Arinthia knew that she wouldn’t. Even those at the top of the hierarchy had their code of honor that they were expected strictly to adhere to, for it was given by the gods themselves, and defiling it could invoke a great cursing.

“Ignore her,” Hymla implored Kywal. “She’s just a leech, hardly worth getting upset about.”

“Leach!” exclaimed Arinthia. “You must be mistaken Hymla. From what I understand, you three always leach after what your fathers provide. As for I, I provide for myself by my own hard work.”

“Such insolence!” shrieked Kywal. “Are you insinuating that we are idle?”

“I didn’t think it was much of an insinuation as it was a statement,” retorted Arinthia, not being one to miss the mark.

“I’m sure the gods will forgive you if you strike the smugness from her face,” Zylin goaded Kywal.

“Remember the precepts,” Hymla reminded her two friends in not so much a humble way, but piously, in the hopes that they would show Arinthia that they were every bit her superiors.

“You’re right,” said Arinthia, hoping to humor them with her false humility, though she knew it wasn’t very likely. “I am unworthy in your presence, and I could certainly cultivate a spirit of meekness in following the precept the gods have set before us, which, in my case, is learning to be more lady like.”

“I guess we can’t all grow up possessed with natural grace,” Kywal feigned pity. Her insincerity was evident enough, but if she would toy with Arinthia, Arinthia would toy with her. “Perhaps I was too hard on you,” the chief’s daughter continued. “Bad habits aren’t easy to break.”

“This is true,” said Arinthia. And unable to resist one last jab she added, “Just as many of us who have the unfortunate habit of spending our time in the company of spineless urchins who only tell us what we want to hear, rather than what we need to know.”

“Indeed,” huffed Kywal, as her two friends huffed in exact unison with her.

 Kywal walked the opposite direction of Arinthia, Zylin and Hymla trailing behind her like two obedient canyon wolf pups.

Sadly, the gossip didn’t stop with those three. As Arinthia made her way back to her tent, the whispers flew through the air, stinging her ears like hornets. It went without saying that the other Xibians knew that whispering, no matter how low they tried to keep their voices, amounted to very little. Rather whispering was just considered a form of being polite within their culture. Why? Arinthia could never figure that out. There seemed to be something condescending about pretending to be polite when one could just be upfront. At least with honesty you didn’t have to worry about trying to conceal your heart rate. Yet, she didn’t care as much about the gossip circulating among the adults. For there’s was spoken to one another more in a voice of concern, instead of condemnation, for Arinthia, unlike how Kywal and her two lackeys spoke of her. Yet, a tribe devoid of gossip would be the ideal.

Putting these thought out of her mind, Arinthia took an old tree branch to carve into a spear. Finding a good rock to sit on, she started to whittle away the large and bulky branch laying her across her lap. This wouldn’t take long. Each time her knife carved a slice off, the branch grew thinner, more elegant. Spears weren’t the only things she carved out of wood. Over the years she had become quite skilled in carving everything from bowls and spoons to little wooden sculptures. Her favorite carving were two little wooden statues she had made of her parents.

She had begun carving their likeness not long after they had passed away, when she was a girl of seven years of age. She had lost them to the Vun, the rival tribe. Because of this, she would always hate the Vun. She didn’t need her leaders telling her how evil they were. She already knew. When she was a little girl, she couldn’t take up a spear to kill those who murdered her parents, so she tried to honor her parents by preserving their likeness in a carving. It went without saying that her carvings weren’t perfect to start out with. It took her many years to get the likeness right, but she never doubted that she did eventually achieve their nearly, if not a perfect, likeness. She could never forget her father’s strong jaw, deep eyes, and long nose, or her mother’s softer facial features. She had carved many things since then, but the little wooden statues of her parents would always be her favorite.

The time whittled away just as she whittled away on the wood, and soon she held a spear in her hands while her feet sat in a hill of wood carvings. It was a good spear. It would find its mark.

Sufficiently hungered, it was now time to prepare dinner from the hunt. She was about to gather sticks of wood for the fire pit beside her tent, when she heard the sounds of footsteps and the rattling of wood.

“You shouldn’t be up and about,” said Arinthia. “You hurt your back.” She could still hear the muscle straining as Jorgek approached.

“Listen to that,” the old Xibian said. “It doesn’t sound so bad, does it?”

“I thought I told you to let me take care of dinner.”

“I did,” shrugged Jorgek. “You said you’d cut and cook up the meat. But you didn’t say I couldn’t gather firewood for it.”

Arinthia sighed. He was a stubborn old man. “Just put them down and take a seat, old fool,” she said. “And please, let me take care of the rest.”

“Can I at least start the fire?”                                  

“With the way your back muscle is strained right now, I’d rather you not, lest it grow worse.”

Despite the grumpy Xibian’s protests, Arinthia was already on her knees over the fire pit, scraping her knife against a flint. So accustomed was she to using a knife and flint that she had a fire blazing in no time.

 It was beautiful. Each of the fire’s flames were a different instrument, making music slightly distinct from the other, but all blending together to make a chorus of pops, crackles, and low rumbles. Fire! It was the song of life, but also the song of death, and it sang of both.

 Arinthia roasted the meat over a spit, while listening to the flaming tongues of the fire, hungrily slavering over the flesh. She breathed in the heat of the flames while giving a prayer of thanksgiving unto the gods. The prayer would last for the whole duration of the cooking of the meat. While praying, she would continually place sticks upon the fire when it was called for. The meat sizzled like a rainstorm and popped like a cork above the fire. When her ears detected that the meat was fully cooked, she ceased her prayers, and cut a couple of slabs off of it for Jorgek and herself. She handed Jorgek a wood plate, she had carved, with a piece of meat on it.

“Ah, your parents would be proud of you,” Jorgek smacked his lips upon taking a bit out of their kill.

“For my cooking, old man?” she asked.

“You young people always just assume,” Jorgek indigently shot back. “I was going to say that they would be proud of what a strong and independent woman you turned out to be.”

“I was of the mind I was supposed to be subservient,” Arinthia stated.

 Jorgek sighed. “Who’s giving you problems, girl? Let me know, and I’ll give them three times as many.”

“Would it be a fair fight? It would be three against one. And you’re so, well, old.”

“Don’t underestimate my shriveled body, because I have the strength of ten young men,” Jorgek pointed out.

“Yes, but you’d have to then take on the chief and his advisers.”

“Oh, so it’s them. Yes, that does cause a problem. Ah well, I do think your parents would be proud of you.”

“Especially if I avenged them,” she nodded.

“Would your parents want you to harbor revenge in your heart?”

 “They would want me to avenge them,” Arinthia found herself growing tense.

 “Revenge or avenge?”

 “Is there a difference?” inquired Arinthia.

“I  don’t think so,” said Jorgek thoughtfully. “Do you?”

“Yes,” said Arinthia resolutely. “They killed my parents.”

“That’s what you’ve often said, young lady. But who, who killed your parents?”

“The Vuns,” said Arinthia impatiently.

“But which Vun?”

“Does it matter?”

“If you want justice, then it better matter,” said Jorgek, throwing a bone to the side. “Only one, or a few of them, are guilty of killing your parents.”

“They are all Vun,” protested Arinthia.

“And they are all individuals,” added Jorgek.

 Arinthia inwardly fumed, not bothering to hide the beats of her heart from him. The old man was so reasonable in many aspects of his life. Why couldn’t he be reasonable enough to see that the Vun were monsters beyond any sort of empathy? They were even worse than the Korrigans, who they also had to listen for. She took a huge bite out of the shagrit meat, feeling she’d rather choke on it than have to listen to anymore of Jorgek’s nonsense.

“Have you ever stopped to ask yourself how the Vun see us?” the old Xibian pressed the matter, not one to be deterred.

“As prey to hunt.”

“And we don’t hunt them?”

By now Arinthia growing increasingly exasperated. “That’s different,” she snapped. “We are hunting them so they don’t kill us first. Ours is out of necessity and protection, not out of pure enjoyment.”

“And yet it would seem to give you pleasure to kill all the Vun for what a couple did to your parents,” stated Jorgek gravely.

At a loss for words, Arinthia finished up her meal before throwing the bone into the fire, which popped much like her heart. “I don’t bask in your company in order to be put down,” she curtly told him as she left the fire to crawl into her tent.

“Offense is not my intent,” said Jorgek. “But I do know that you are far too intelligent to just buy all the lies that the chief, the elders, and the priests give.”

As fantastic as her hearing was, she still managed to block out what he said.

Inside the confines of her tent, Arinthia found solitude. Behind her bedding of furs was a mantle she had carved, and upon it were her little wooden statues of her parents.

Silently she spoke to them, but not by whispers as that would still be loud enough for Jorgek, who was still sitting by the fire outside, to hear. Instead she opted to speak to them just by engaging in meditation. She told them that she would still avenge them, and that though she wasn’t taking on the role of a traditional Xibian woman that she still hoped to make them proud of her. The more she poured out her heart the more the tears poured out. But she wouldn’t give Jorgek the benefit of hearing her cries. In order to stop the tears from hitting her knees, she pressed her palms to her eyes, in the hopes of muffling the sound.

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Advice for Authors Looking for Editors

I finish up my first draft. It should be perfect, right? Hardly. Going back I find an abundance of grammatical errors and eyesores of sentence structures. And those commas, how I hate commas! They are the bane to my existence. Some comma rules are easy to figure out, but some commas seem to be tricky or have no hard rules (by the way, did I put a comma in the correct place with the last sentence?). Thus I engage in the long drawn out experience of making corrections. But after many long nights and mornings of making corrections, my writing still doesn’t feel polished. I find I need an editor. Heck, I may even need an editor for this blog posting, but my current one has enough on her plate. That’s right, my current one. I now have an editor. But how did I get one and why should you probably have one? To being with –


An Extra Pair of Eyes Help

It’s hard for us authors to look at our own work objectively. We pour our hearts and souls into our work, birthing our writing in a painful process. Even those of us who can look at our work with neutral eyes may find that something is wrong, but we can’t always put our finger on it. Once I hired an editor, it was amazing what she was able to find that I was oblivious to. Not only was she able to spot out errors that I easily overlooked, even when I was rereading my work, but she has offered a lot of support, which brings up the second point.

 

Find an Editor Who Believe in Your Vision

This is important. A good editor should be one of your biggest fans, someone who believes in your work and encourages you to keep writing. An incompatible editor won’t offer words of encouragement or praise good writing. Rather a poor editor will nitpick and find fault with everything. However, just because a good editor is beneficial it doesn’t mean that you turn off your brain. So…

 

Make Your Own Decisions As Well

Most of the recommendations my editor makes I take to heart. However, there may be  five percent of those pieces of advice I ignore. Do I not value my editor? No. I highly value her. But sometimes I have to take a risk, feeling what I have written is valid to the story. In the end it’s your work and you have to make decisions.


But What About Cost?

This is something I have struggled with, particularly as a beginning indie author. A friend of mine got me in contact with her other friend who is an editor. I was excited about the prospect of finally securing one, especially one who seemed so experienced and exuberant. Problem was, as lovely as a person as she was, I couldn’t afford her price, even though it was lower than some other professional editors. This is a problem that most beginning authors run into. And if one is going to be a self-published author like me, where there is the possibility that hardly anyone will read my work, if anyone at all, it’s a valid concern. So how is this remedied?

Find a Beginning Editor

I can already hear protesting from the other end of the keyboard. Shouldn’t an author, even a beginning one, have an experienced editor? Well, maybe not. Beginning authors want to be given a chance. Should not beginning editors be given a chance as well? Yes, they are learning and growing in their craft, but so are we. They deserve a chance to gain experience. Of course it helped that the reason I chose my beginning editor was because she is incredibly affordable. I can pay her and not break bank. Also, learning and growing with her is a joy. We both have a grand time ranting our deepest emotions and insecurities about how much we both hate commas.

Well, hopefully this is post has provided some much needed insight. If you’d like to add anything or offer any contradicting opinions, I’d be happy to hear from you. Until then keep writing.

 

The Seeds of Writing

There will be days in which the writing just doesn’t flow so well. There are times when the fountain of the mind, normally gushing with creative juices, are nearly all dried up. When some sort of dam, thick and wide, blocks much of the creativity. No matter. Write anyway. Even if it’s only two paragraphs. Heck, only if it’s one sentence! Let those few words you planted upon paper or your computer screen be seeds. Come back later. Water those seeds. If need be discard them and plant new seeds in their place. Trim them and nourish them. In time they will grow into a bouquet of literary beauty. Write! Even if just a little bit. It’s amazing how far how little steps in writing each day can take us. One small sentence can grow into a novel.
sunlit palms

A Question of Timelessness: Writing Science Fiction vs Writing Fantasy

It’s no secret that the subjects I tend to write about are fantasy, science fiction, and Gothic. In this post, I won’t be mentioning Gothic, but I will be focusing on science fiction and fantasy. Which genre of these two do I prefer as a reader and a writer, and why?

First off, it would be foolish to state for a fact that one genre is inherently superior than the other. Both science fiction and fantasy have their own unique flavors as well as their masterpieces and their own flops. There is both good fantasy and good science fiction, as well as what I term the MST3K books (yes, after the popular cult classic Mystery Science Theater 3000 show)  from grade B writers for both. But what are the differences between the two genres? We can’t blame some people for being confused when libraries and bookstores often shelve the two together.

For starters, fantasy appeals to our childlike mindset of our primitive ancestors, in which magic andfantasy monsters lurk all around us. Many of us dream of flying with dragons over snowy white, cloud covered mountains, of casting spells to change the fabric of nature, of having a picnic ], under the moonlight with fairies and wood nymphs, or of going on an epic quest in which one fights goblins and trolls, explores castles, and defeats a great evil to become a champion. Fantasy has the markings of a mythology that refuses to die.

Science fiction appeals to what could be. The dreamer wonders what it would be like to live in a world in which we have robots as companions  or to step into hologram chambers to play virtual games, or to be the first to set foot on Mars, or to blast off into the coldest reaches of space and explore new galaxies while trying to survive in such a cold vacuum.  It could be said that science fiction looks to the future, whereas fantasy looks to a mythic past.

I have enjoyed the science fiction writings of Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clark, Orson Scott Card, and Isaac Asimov, as well as the fantasy writings of Terry Brooks, Robin Hobb, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Brandon Sanderson. However, while both have provided me with out of enjoyment, I would have to say that out of the two genres, as a reader and an author, I prefer fantasy.

To begin with, fantasy is easier to write on many levels. It doesn’t require the same rules science fiction does. Make no mistake. I’m not advocating for sloppily written fantasy in which everything can just change on the whim. Good fantasy has established rules for races, lands, history, and magic systems. Even fantasy has to have elements that make sense, lest it just turn to nonsense (Unless the premise is based on nonsense like Alice in Wonderland, but that’s a whole different story). Books such as Tolkien’s Middle Earth series, the Chronicles of Narnia, and Harry Potter, all have rules. But they aren’t realistic rules. Contrast that to science fiction. In order to be good science fiction, the stories have to have harder rules that show a potential reality. Reality is an essential key ingredient for good science fiction because they are stories about what could potentially happen. Some may protest over such a generalization and bring up such movies as Star Wars. That being the case, let’s remove the quest for scientific accuracy from the equation. Such stories of outer space adventures don’t rely on hard scientific facts. As such they are termed soft science fiction.

Yet, it would be better to do away with the term soft science fiction. Once a story becomes like Star Wars, it’s no longer science fiction, but an outer space fantasy, or, in some cases, a fantasy on earth with robots and other strange creatures. To elucidate the matter, compare Star Wars to Star Trek. Star Trek throughout the years has tried to show what could happen, and many inventions from that show or now in use. In terms of even harder science fiction, one only need look at movies like Interstellar, which dives incredibly into the waters of science, combing the bottom for what could be and what is. Star Wars in comparison has lots of myth and magic, such as the Force, making it fit fit better into the classification of fantasy than science fiction.

When it comes to writing good science fiction, which actually incorporates scientific concepts instead of turning it into an outer space fantasy fiction, is tricky enough. But that’s not the only problem that science fiction runs into. Science fiction can easily turn into science fact, or, in other terms, it doesn’t take long for science fiction to become reality in which the stories become dated. Star Trek is somewhat illustrative of this point, even though people aren’t exploring the galaxies with warp drive. One only needs to google inventions since Star Trek to see how much of Star Trek has come true. Computers with monitors, as well as Skype (though it was never called that in the show), communicators (cell phones), automatic doors, tablet computers, and even tricorders are all a part of our modern society. While all of these are amazing feats of human engineering, it also kills a little bit of the reverence we had for the gadgets in Star Trek.

Ray Bradbury’s dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451 also has turned into science fact in many science fictionways. We don’t have firemen burning houses full of books, despite censorship being alive and well, but society now has many of the inventions the book spoke about. Inventions such as Bluetooths and headphones (shells in the book), flatscreen TVs, talking to friends over screens, are no longer confined to the pages of a 1950s dystopian novel. Take 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne. It’s still a beautiful book, but it has inevitably lost it’s wonder over the ages now that we have submarines like the book talks about. How long until my own science fiction novels and short stories all become science fact? The list could go on and on, but many writers have accurately predicated, or influenced, the future. Issac Asimov, Larry Niven, Arthur C. Clark, and Orson Scott Card have all tried to go for a more realistic type of science fiction, doing their best to see what could be.

Just as many of these aforementioned ideas of these shows, books, and writers have come to pass, as a writer, I struggle to keep my science fiction stories fresh and relevant. Years ago, I had the idea for a science fiction dystopian novel, which I am currently working on, in which man gets bombarded by too much technology – not very original I know. Only recently have I started working on this novel. Imagine my surprise when I found out that some of my ideas are already coming to pass, such ideas as sex robots, self driving cars, and robots working in fast food, just to name a few. Years ago these concepts were fresh in my mind, but I had no idea that they would be invented so fast. Because of this, I have often asked myself if it’s even worth pursuing writing this novel. What’s the point of writing a book warning society of the dangers of being saturated with too much technology when the story is already coming to pass before my eyes? Should I even write a book about people on Mars, or people exploring the moons of Jupiter? How timeless will these books be in the future?

To be perfectly frank, I am somewhat of a Luddite, and I’m a Luddite over the silliest of reasons. I hate the idea of science fiction, something that has given us great stories throughout the years, becoming dated. Science fiction has done much to enlighten our minds of what humanity is capable of. It has inspired scientists, engineers, and inventors throughout history to look at the world in new ways, to see all sorts of possibilities, helping us advance. In numerous ways, science fiction has been a blessing. Yet, the positive generally collaborates and corroborates with the negative, and in this case the yin working with and against the yang has been the realism. Realism is simultaneously good science fictions strength and it’s ultimate killer.

Fantasy on the other hand will always be mythopoeic, appealing to the more primitive man in many respects. I’m not so worried about my fantasy writings becoming dated, as fantasy is far more flexible with the passage of time than science fiction could ever hope to be. Dragons, wizards, banshees, oni, vampires, rusalka, magic talismans and oracles, will always spark a sense of wonder in people. One doesn’t need to have any concern over the fantasy works of Frank Oz, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Terry Brooks, Robin Hobb, Terry Pratchet, Lewis Carroll, Ursala K LeGuin, or Lloyd Alexander ever becoming dated. There will never be magic wardrobes that take us to lands full of anthropomorphic animals, dwarfs and rings of power, schools for witches and wizards, flat worlds atop a turtle, or magical lands of whimsy and nonsense, too name a few. Spaceships, androids, holograms, and ray guns will inevitably lose some of their wonder as society moves towards the future at a rapid pace.

This isn’t to say that I don’t like science fiction. I like science fiction almost as much as fantasy. But fantasy still wins out just a little more when it comes to old books being timeless and when it comes to writing.

fantasy

Lady in Black short story

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Catacombs of Paris. Photo in Public Domain

Due to the intense subject matter and adult themes. This story is recommended for ages 13 and up.

Roger was sitting in his rotting apartment, upon his rotting chair, as his body and mind rotted away.  The cracked grey walls leaked putrid water, and bugs and the occasional rats snatched off food from his kitchen floor under the dim lights. The wiring of the lights were bad, causing them to flicker. But he didn’t care. Come what may, he didn’t care. All he was good for was spending his days at home, slowly wasting away.

It was this day during his despondency that she came, the lady in black. She didn’t bother to ring his doorbell, – it was broken anyway – nor did she take the time to knock on his door. She glided into Roger’s living room, a specter in a dress as dark as night. Her hair was as black as a raven’s feathers and her skin was ghostly white, accentuating her colorless pupils. The lady in black should have scared Roger, but she had the opposite effect. He found her calming, a morphine to sooth his nerves.

“Who are you?” Roger inquired of her in a voice of reverence.

“Who I am does not matter, except that I am your rescuer,” the lady in black comforted him. “Come with me,” she reached out a hand, invitingly. “And we’ll leave behind this world of pain, this prison of sorrow, and you can rest in sweet bliss.”

 Roger took her hand and she whisked him away out of the house, allowing him to pass through the door as though he were a gust of wind. He flew with her through the old city, the rain pouring down like tears from the dead above. He swooshed with her past old puddles and through darkened alleyways. They glided through the city like shadows, until they came to an old dilapidated building that lay wedged in an alley between two taller buildings. A large wooden door on old rusty hinges creaked from the wind and the rain.

“Come with me,” the lady in black embraced Roger.

“What’s down there?” Roger asked.

The lady in black swirled gently around him. “Peace, serenity, no more pain. Down there we will live together, always in a tender embrace.”

Her words were sweet, like honey flowing into Roger’s ears. Her hands and fingers, which were now brushing and stroking against his chest, were light like feathers brushing away the worries of his heart. Her lips were red like wine and passion against her white skin. She was strikingly beautiful.

“Follow me and behind this closed door we will make love,” she spoke the words seductively.

Roger desired to follow her, but in his heart he faltered once again. Behind that door lay a vast  mystery, one impenetrable and unfathomable. The lock wasn’t on the door itself, but in Roger’s mind, and the only way that he could remove that lock to find the mysteries that awaited within the building was to turn his own key, thus casting off the shackles of fear.

“It may look scary, but I promise you that it’s not,” the lady in black reassured him. “Trust me. Inside I will give myself wholly to you. We shall become as one.” When Roger continued to stall, the lady in black reached out her hand to him. “Do you trust me?”

“Yes,” said Roger, after much hesitation. “I trust you.”

 This time they didn’t float through the door, but the door swung open, and Roger followed her down a stairway of gold and silver, with silk banners of purple and pink, and paintings of cupids and Aphrodites. Roger found himself at ease even before he reached the bottom of the stairs. When he did reach the bottom, an even greater surprise awaited him.

 What could have been either a ballroom or a spacious bedroom spread out like a sea of pleasure before him. A marble fountain was in the middle, with marble sea nymphs lying around it, their eyes closed and mouths open in a state of ecstasy. Upon the top of the fountain stood Venus, pouring out water from a vase. Huge pillars, likewise carved from marble and tinged a pale pink, held up the ceiling. A huge mural covered the ceiling, one showing the heavens and the gods and goddesses living in merriment, free of pain and sorrow. Near the back of the room were flower beds and trees, miraculously forming a garden underground, without any visible sunlight. The only light that shone was from a large crystal chandelier hanging from the ceiling. Beds, red in color with gold sheets, lined the sidewalls under little alcoves. Aside from the garden, this was the most unique feature of the room’s surroundings. There had to be hundreds of beds spread across both walls within alcoves.

“Come,” said the lady in black, never having let go of Roger’s hand. “I will take away your pain.”

 Roger was lead over to one of the lower alcoves where a bed was waiting for the both of them.

“Lie down,” said the lady in black.

  He did so. And she slipped off her dress. He fell asleep in her arms.

Frigid and dead air hung stale in an almost consuming darkness when Roger awoke upon the bed. Except he didn’t awaken on the bed, at least not the same bed he had crawled into with the lady in black. The bed was hard and it was made of stone. The only light that was now given were by the flicker of small candles. Panicked over this change of surroundings, Roger looked over to ask the lady in black what was going on. Instead he saw the grey face of a skull smiling deviously at him.

Roger screamed but the earth around him swallowed his voice up. He nearly tripped while getting out of the alcove. Though he could hardly see, he could see enough to know that all the alcoves contained stone beds where skeletons slept. He struggled in the darkness, trying to let the little bit of the light from the candles guide him. But he kept tripping. It dawned on him that he’d have to take one of the candles out of the holders on the wall to use. Ignoring the hot wax, he grabbed one of the candles and crouched on the ground to get a look on the ground to what was tripping him. What he saw were numerous pelvic bones, rib cages, arm and leg joints, and skulls frozen in hideous grins. There was an ocean of bones, forming frozen waves of the dead.

Terrified, Roger dropped his candle, the cold bones extinguishing the light. He had to get out. On his hands and knees he struggled up one of the larger hills of bones. When he was over it, he could see four other candles within metal candle holders forming a square around the fountain. But it wasn’t the same fountain as before, with the charming mermaids and the Venus. The fountain was even devoid of water. Instead it was full of skulls. Upon the pedestal where Venus once stood, stood the imposing form of Death, the Grim Reaper, holding aloft in both bony hands high above his head, his scepter, triumphant over the souls he had harvested. Even more horrifying was the stone cold look the Grim Reaper was giving Roger. It was a look that said that Roger’s soul would be cut down under the scythe.

 Roger ran, not caring if he tripped. He had to escape from this prison. He slid down the pile off bones, only to nearly bump into the lady in black.

“Why is it you run?” she asked softly.

“I have to get out of here,” Roger pleaded. “Please let me go.”

“Did I not promise your mind comfort?” the lady in black looked at him. “Did I not promise you an escape from the world of turmoil?”

 Before Roger could answer, he found her lips locked onto his, and try as he might, he couldn’t release them. Suddenly, something warm was wiggling in his mouth, and it wasn’t the lady in black’s tongue. Roger finally released himself, or rather she released him, and he found himself coughing up maggots and worms. Another cough, stronger than the previous ones, released a swarm of flies from his mouth.

“Don’t you love me?” asked the lady in black, brushing her pale white hand against his cheek.

“No! I don’t love you! I want to be free of you!”

Roger awoke back in his apartment. There were no bones. No tombs. No Grim Reaper statue looking over him. No lady in black. Only a rotting apartment remained, as well as himself, rotting from the inside and the outside.

 Slowly Roger made his way to the blinds. Pulling them open he welcomed the sun. It had sense stopped raining. He absorbed the sunlight as much as he could, inhaling it into his body, into his heart, letting it warm him. He cried. He cried harder than he had ever cried before. Years of suppressed emotion flooded through him. It was like welcoming back an old friend.

 Strengthened from the sunlight, with a newfound sense of resolve kindled within him, he took out his cell phone. He dialed a number. “Hello, I need help,” he said.

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Happy Birthday, Tolkien

“Today is my 126th birthday,” J.R.R. Tolkien might say at his birthday party to crowds of adoring party-goers, if he were still alive today. In my fertile imagination I can conjure

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up an image like something straight out of the beginning of Fellowship of the Ring, in which Tolkien, instead of Bilbo, invites 144 guests, people who were important to him in his own life, and not so important; his own Tooks, Brandybucks, Bracegirdles and so forth. Like his protagonist of The Hobbit, Bilbo, I can visualize Tolkien saying during his speech, “I don’t know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you as well as you deserve.” Furthermore, I like to think that if this was the case, I would be invited to his birthday, and I would have been one of those he liked.  I also wonder what present he would give me. In truth, nothing he could give me could overshadow the gift that he already gave me, the gift of wanting to be a writer.
I was a boy when I first read The Hobbit, and read is an understatement. It transferred me, as if by some magical power, into a different world. His words were a wave of magic, engulfing me, whisking me away to Middle Earth, into a realm where my imagination could soar as high as a dragon above snowy mountains and vast kingdoms. I followed Bible as he journeyed with the wizard Gandalf and a rag-tag team of dwarves, hiking dangerous  mountains, traversing into gloomy forests, while encountering fearsome trolls, goblins, and flesh eating spiders, as well as more benign creatures such as elves and eagles, all on their journey to confront a fierce dragon. I was enchanted by the song and poetry, of the words of wisdom within the book. I had to read more. It wasn’t long until I was reading all three books of The Lord of the Rings. “Aren’t you young to be reading that?” I was sometimes asked. I was about in the fifth grade, if I remember correctly, or the sixth. Young or not, I was entranced. Tolkien had bound me with a spell more powerful than the dark magic that the Dark Lord Sauron used to create the one ring to bind “to rule them all.” Since then I have read The Hobbit four times, The Lord of the Rings three times, and have since read The Children of Hurin and I have started on the Silmarillion.

I have read other fantasy book since, such as the works of Terry Brooks, Brandon Sanderson, Ursala K. Leguin, and Robin Hobb, just to name a few. These are all wonderful writers, crafting with their magical minds their own worlds full of life, emotion, and lore. But it’s Tolkien who most fantasy writers pay homage to and for good reason. He reinvented fantasy for the modern age. I say reinvent because it would be a falsehood to state that he created fantasy. There were fantasy authors prior to him, such as George McDonald, a Scottish 19th century fantasy writer, who wrote such books as The Princess and the Goblin and Phantastes: A Fairy Romance, just to name a few. Though nearly forgotten, George McDonald was a major influence on J.R.R. Tolkien, as well as Tolkien’s best friend and fellow writer C.S. Lewis. But the greatest influence on Tolkien were the Norse myths, the stories of the vikings. From these tales of Odin, Thor, and Loki, he would take rings of power, dwarves, trolls, magic runes, and even Middle Earth. It was Tolkien who made fantasy into a popular and respectable genre, who introduced the reading audience to epic fantasy on a grand scale.

It was because of Tolkien’s beautiful writing and his epic storytelling that I wanted to be a storyteller in the same vein he was. I wanted to create worlds and lore and mythology with as much magic as he did. I wanted people to experience wonder like I felt when I read his work. In short, I knew I wanted to be an author.

While I have read other fantasy books by other fantasy authors since then, it wasn’t just contemporary fantasy that Tolkien helped kindle my interest in. As previously stated, Tolkien borrowed mythology and made it his own. The man himself was a mythology professor. This in turn encouraged me to read not just Norse mythology, but mythology from all over the world. By filling my mind with all manner of mythology, it has helped improve me as not just a writer, but also as a storyteller.

Tolkien’s mark upon contemporary fantasy literature, as well as upon video game RPGs, tabletop games, fantasy paintings, and movies, can’t be understated. He touched so many people, inspiring them in their storytelling and other art forms, being a mentor to them from beyond the grave. Just as Tolkien was a huge inspiration, bringing joy and wonder to millions of people, I can only hope that my writing does that much for at least a quarter of that amount of people. It doesn’t even have to be half. If I can touch and inspire a few people with my writing, I will consider all the hard work worth it.

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